Common space capacities reduced after reevaluation

After Goodrich Hall was discovered to be structurally unsound last spring and closed for repairs, the College launched an extensive evaluation of the structural integrity of its buildings. The evaluation revealed code-related deficiencies in buildings across campus, and caused Facilities to reduce capacity limits in several buildings until renovations can be made. Capacity limits in common spaces in Garfield, Perry, Tyler, and Wood fell. Dodd was especially hard-hit as it saw the capacity of its dining hall reduced from 120 people to 74 and its living room area from 380 to 56.

Safety concerns about the older buildings on campus arose after the incident in Goodrich last spring, in which crowds at the Günther concert caused the floor to sag. In the case of Goodrich, the old building was not strong enough to accommodate the mass of students. As a result, Facilities evaluated the aging structures in Currier, Dodd, Garfield, Lasell, Perry, Spencer, Tyler and Wood. According to figures provided by Joe Moran, manager of safety and environmental compliance, about half of the spaces were determined to have posted capacities well beyond the limits of safety.

New capacities were calculated, with attention to fire and structural codes as well as power needs and event-specific needs. The fire code requires appropriate exits and sprinkler-served spaces, while the structural code deals with the condition of materials and structural design. Furthermore, different sorts of events require different capacity calculations. As for the spaces with reduced capacities, until renovations can take place, Moran explained, the precautionary reductions in capacity are the best option for students. “In all cases, it seemed safer and wiser to reduce capacity and continue to use [the buildings] rather than to take them off line altogether – or to risk the kind of damage that occurred to Goodrich and then lose them completely for much longer periods of time,” Moran said.

As such, the capacity of the first floor of Wood has been reduced from 180 people to 102. The capacity of Garfield’s first floor was similarly cut from 107 to 78 people. Perry’s television room had its capacity nearly halved, as it fell from 76 to 45. Tyler’s first floor was deemed safe for 71 people, whereas it previously allowed 120. The posted capacities of Lasell Gymnasium, Currier Ballroom and Spencer were all determined still to be appropriate.

Parties, concerts and other major events were putting a strain on the buildings, but now occupancy constraints are putting a strain on party-planners. The normal capacity of Currier Ballroom is 212, but a party held there two weeks ago had a live band playing, reducing its capacity to 170.

The capacity cuts were particularly crippling to Dodd neighborhood. According to Peter Nurnberg ’09, president of the Dodd neighborhood and CC co-president, the reduction in Dodd’s capacity has hampered the ability of the neighborhood governance board to hold cluster-sponsored events.

“As of now, we can’t do anything in terms of programming for Dodd neighborhood,” he said. “The only places to hold large events now are Paresky, Greylock and Mission, none of which are ideal.”

The staff in Dodd dining hall is also waiting for Dodd to be fully functional again. Dan Levering, first chef of Dodd said he expected the renovations necessary to return Dodd back to its full capacity to get underway in the near future. “We should have contractors in soon to put in more structural support or whatever else we need,” Levering said.

Additional reporting by Jared Quinton, News Editor.